[A sunny valley, rich in flowers, trees, and vegetation of all kinds, and surrounded by lofty snow-capped mountains. In the center of the background a quiet mountain tarn; on the left side a rocky cliff which drops straight down to the water. On the same side nearer the front of the stage a very old log hut, almost entirely hidden in the dense shrubbery. The glow of dawn shines over the mountains; in the valley itself the day is only half begun; during the following scene’s the sun rises.]
[ALFHILD lies sleeping and half concealed among the bushes beside the hut; soft music indicates her shifting dreams. OLAF comes down the hillside to the right. Over his wedding clothes he wears a coarse cloak.]
Olaf. Here it was; I know the green there this side of the tarn.
It was yonder beneath the linden tree that I dreamed my strange
dream. On the slope of the mountain there I stood when Alfhild
for the first time came to meet me; I placed my betrothal ring on
the string of my bow and shot; — that shot has proved a magic
shot; it struck the huntsman himself.
Olaf. It is strange that when I wander up here, far from the
village below, it seems as if another atmosphere played around
me, as if a more vigorous blood flowed in my veins, as if I had
another mind, another soul.
Olaf. Where is she now?
Olaf. I shall — I will find her again! Up here she must come;
she has no home out there in the cold wide world. And I— am I
not also a homeless fugitive? Did I not become a stranger in my
mother’s house, a stranger among my kinsmen, the very first hour
I met her?
Olaf. Is she then a witch — has she power over secret arts as —?
Olaf. My mother! Hm! It seems to me it would scarcely be well
for me to allow her to manage my life; she insinuates thoughts
into my heart which do not belong there. No, no, I will find
Alfhild again and ask forgiveness for the wrong I have done, and
[He stops and looks out to the left.]
[OLAF. Alfhild still sleeping. Thorgjerd comes from behind the hut on the left.]
Olaf. Well met, stranger!
Thorgjerd. Thanks, the same to you. You are early about!
Olaf. Or late; early in the morning, but late in the night.
Thorgjerd. You belong in the village below, I take it.
Olaf. My family lives there. And you?
Thorgjerd. Wherever the mind is at rest, there is one at home;
that is why I like best to wander in here; — my neighbors shall
not do me any injustice.
Olaf. That I have noticed.
Thorgjerd. Then you have been here before?
Olaf. I chased a hind this summer in here; but when I look
closely I see ’tis a royal child that has been bewitched.
Thorgjerd. [Looks at him sharply.] That hunt is dangerous!
Olaf. For the hunter?
Olaf. I was sitting and thinking the same thing myself; it seems
to me that I was bewitched on that hunt.
Thorgjerd. Farewell and good luck to you!
Olaf. Out upon you! If you wish a huntsman good luck he will
never come within shot of the prey.
Thorgjerd. If the shot should strike the hunter himself, the
best luck that could happen to him would be to have no luck at
Olaf. You speak wisely.
Thorgjerd. Yes, yes; there is many a thing to be learned in
Olaf. Too true! I have learned here the best that I know.
Thorgjerd. Farewell! I’ll take greetings from you to your
Olaf. You mean to go down?
Thorgjerd. Such was my purpose. These are merry days down
there, I am told. A mighty knight is celebrating his wedding —
Olaf. Then you should have been there last night; now I fear the
best part of the fun is past.
Thorgjerd. I dare say I’ll come in time even yet.
Olaf. Perhaps! But still you should have been there last night;
so bright and so warm a festive hall you never have seen before.
Thorgjerd. It was well for him who was within.
Olaf. I know one who had to stand outside.
Thorgjerd. Yes, yes, outside — that is the poor man’s place.
Olaf. I know one who had to stand outside and who nevertheless
was both worse off and better off than those within.
Thorgjerd. I must go down — I see that clearly; I shall play for
the guests. Now I shall fetch my harp, and then —
Olaf. You are a minstrel?
Thorgjerd. And not among the worst. Now shall I fetch my harp
from where it lies hidden near the waterfall; those strings you
should hear. With them I sat once on the edge of the bed and
played the bride out of the festive hall over ridge and
field. — Have you never heard little Ingrid’s lay? He who could
play the bride out of the bridegroom’s arms can surely play his
child home to her father again. Farewell! If you linger here we
may meet again when I get down there.
[He goes out to the right by the tarn.]
Olaf. Ah, if it were — for certain I cannot doubt it. Alfhild
herself said that her father played such music that no one who
heard it could ever forget. He mentioned Lady Ingrid who
disappeared on the eve of her wedding many years ago — there was
a young minstrel named Thorgjerd who loved her, so went the
story. Many a strange tale was afterwards current about him; at
times he stood right in the midst of the village and played so
beautifully that all who heard it had to weep; but no one knew
where he made his home. Alfhild — yes, she is his child! Here
she has grown up, here in this desolate valley, which no one has
known of by name for many a year; and Ingrid, who
disappeared — indeed, he said —
[Becomes aware of ALFHILD.]
Olaf. Alfhild! There she is! In her wedding garments she has
fled up here. Here then shall you awaken after the bridal night;
so sorry a day to you was my day of honor. You wished to go out
into life, you said; you wanted to learn to know all the love in
the world. So sorry a journey you had, but I swear it shall all
be well again. She moves; it is as if she were writhing in
sorrow and anguish; — when you awaken, it shall be to joy and
Alfhild. [Still half in dreams.]
It burns! Oh, save him — he is within!
He must not die! Life anew he must win!
[She jumps up in fright; the music ceases.]
Alfhild. Where am I! He stands here before me, it seems!
Olaf Liljekrans! save me from my dreams!
Olaf. Alfhild! take heart, here you need fear no harm!
Alfhild. [Moves away, fearfully and apprehensively.]
You think with sweet words my soul to beguile?
In your heart there is evil, though with lips you may smile,
On me you shall nevermore practice your charm!
Olaf. Alfhild! be calm, do not start;
’Tis Olaf I am, the friend of your heart!
Unkind I have been, I have treated you ill;
But deep in my heart I was faithful to you!
I was blind and deluded and weak of will —
And thus I did wound you far more than I knew!
O, can you forgive me? Alfhild, you must —
I swear to you I shall be worthy your trust!
I shall bear you aloft and smooth your way,
And kiss from your cheek the tears of dole,
The grief in your heart I shall try to allay,
And heal the wound that burns in your soul!
Alfhild. I know you too well and your cunning disguise.
Since last I did see you I too have grown wise.
You would have me believe with your wily speech
It is you for whom I now suffer and languish.
You would have me believe it was you that did teach
Me to revel in joy and to writhe in anguish.
’Twill profit you little, I know you too well,
Whether early or late you come to my dell.
I know you too well; for deceit on your brow
I can read. Not so was the other, I vow!
Olaf. The other? Whom mean you?
Alfhild. He that is dead!
’Tis therefore I suffer so bitter a dread.
You don’t understand? You must know there were two;
And that is why peace I shall nevermore find!
The one was all love, so good and so true,
The other was evil, faithless, unkind;
The one to me came on a late summer day,
When my heart burst in flower and bloom;
The other led me in the mountain astray,
Where all things are shrouded in gloom!
’Tis the evil one, you, that has come again;
The other who loved me, so good and so kind,
The one who will never be out of my mind —
Ah, him have I slain!
[She sinks down on a stone near the house and busts into tears.]
Olaf. Has he stolen your peace, has he robbed you of rest,
Then why let him longer dwell there in your breast!
Alfhild. Alas, were I laid in the grave far below,
With me, I am sure, my sorrow would go!
I knew it not then — to you do I swear,
I thought it was little for him I did care;
Now I see I must die of a grief-broken heart,
Yet his image will never depart!
[A short pause.]
Alfhild. Have you chords in your bosom that you can command?
It seems so; your voice sounds so pleasant and sweet;
Pleasant — though blended it is with deceit.
Have you chords in your breast, then go round in the land
And sing of Alfhild a plaintive lay
To the village girls you meet on the way:
Only yesterday I was so little a roe,
I roamed in the green groves around;
They came to the forest with arrow and bow,
And chased me with falcon and hound!
Only yesterday I was a bird so forlorn,
I sat ‘neath the linden alone;
They drove me away from the place I was born,
And threw at me stone after stone.
Only yesterday I was an untamed dove,
Which nowhere finds peace or rest;
They came from below, they came from above,
And pierced with an arrow my breast!
Olaf. [Deeply moved.]
Alas, that I lay in the grave below.
Lulled in eternal rest!
Your every word is a steel-made bow
That strikes with an arrow my breast!
Alfhild. [Jumps up with childlike joy.]
Just so it shall be — ’tis rightfully so!
Yes, truly, indeed, have you chords in your breast!
So let it be sung; they easily show
That you are yourself by my sorrow oppressed.
They show that your own grief is just as strong
As the one that you voice in your plaintive song!
[She stops and looks sorrowfully at him.]
Alfhild. Yet no — you shall not sing of Alfhild’s lament;
What stranger is there whom my sorrow will move!
From whence I came, and whither I went
There is no one out there who shall question or prove!
Sing rather of Olaf Liljekrans,
Who wandered astray in the elf-maidens’ dance!
Sing of Alfhild, the false and unkind,
Who drove his betrothed quite out of his mind;
And sing of all the sorrow and fear,
When dead Olaf Liljekrans lay on the bier.
Sing of all the weeping below,
When away they carried the three who had died!
The one was Olaf, the other his bride!
The third was his mother who perished of woe.
Olaf. Yes, Olaf is dead; it is just as you say;
But I shall be now so faithful a friend;
Wherever you dwell, wherever you wend,
From your side I shall nevermore stray!
May I suffer in full for the sin I committed —
Atonement to me shall be sweet.
’Twill comfort me much if I be permitted
To roam with you here in some far-off retreat!
From early dawn till the end of day,
Like a faithful hound I shall follow your lead!
I shall clothe my remorse in so plaintive a lay
Till finally you shall believe me indeed.
Each moment we spent here in ecstasy
I shall call up again to your memory!
Each flower that blooms shall speak it anew,
The cuckoo and swallow shall sing it to you!
The trees that grow here in the forest so green
Shall whisper thereof both soft and serene!
Alfhild. Enough! You would only beguile me anew;
Far better were it for you now to depart!
So fair is the falsehood I see within you,
So faithless the thoughts that dwell in your heart!
What would you up here? What is it you want?
You think that you know the place that you haunt?
So pleasant a spot was this valley of yore,
A curse lies upon it forevermore!
In the past, when lone in the forest I went,
The leaves on the trees had so fragrant a scent!
The flowers bloomed forth on my every side,
When you pressed me to you and called me your bride!
But now — the whole valley is burned in the night;
The trees are burned to the left and the right;
The straw and the leaves are withered away,
Each flower is turned to a dusty gray! —
Alfhild. Yes, clearly I see — in a single night
Is the world become old! — When I wandered below
All alone, and sank down ‘neath my shame and my woe,
Then faded the world and its golden delight.
All things but deceit have vanished away;
So much have I learned on my bridal day!
My father lied; he was wrong when he said
The dead are borne to the dwelling of God;
But Olaf knew better the fate of the dead:
The dead sink below, far under the sod!
Alfhild. [She breaks out in deepest agony.]
Ah, well do I see now you knew what you did;
For low in the grave my body is hid.
Olaf. Alfhild! Your words deal so crushing a blow!
O, God! was your heart once so young and so bold —
Forgive me my sin and forget all your woe!
Alfhild. [With marked and increasing bewilderment.]
Hush, do not speak to me! Olaf, behold!
A corpse they carry, to the grave they creep;
But no mother is there, no children who weep,
No pillows are there of blue or of red —
Alfhild on shavings and straw lies dead!
I shall never ride now to the heaven above,
And awake in the arms of the God of love.
No mother have I whose heart will break,
No one who follows and weeps for my sake;
No person have I in the world so wide,
Who weeps for me at the bier —
No angels to scatter on every side
Blue pearls in the heavenly sphere;
And ne’er shall I reach the dwelling of God,
Where the dead dream only of mirth!
Alfhild. They lower me under the sod!
They cover me over with earth!
And here must I lie with all my dread,
Must live and suffer although I be dead:
Must know there is nothing now left for me,
Yet cannot forget, nor fight myself free;
Must hear when he whom my love I gave
Rides off to the church right over my grave;
Must hear him forever suffer and languish,
And yet can not lessen his anguish!
O, how my bosom is filled with despair!
The angels of God have forgotten my prayer!
They heed no longer my weeping and woe —
The portal is closed to the heavenly bliss —
Dig me up again! Let me not lie here below!
[She rushes out to the left.]
Olaf. Alfhild! Alfhild! O, Christ, what is this?
[He follows her quickly.]
[INGEBORG and HEMMING enter, after a pause, from the right.]
Ingeborg. Well, here we are up here! How lovely and bright and
peaceful it is!
Hemming. Yes, here we shall live happily together!
Ingeborg. But mark you well that you are my servant, and nothing
else — until my father has given his consent.
Hemming. That he will never do!
Ingeborg. Never you mind — we’ll find some means or other. — But
now we must think about choosing a cabin to live in.
Hemming. There are plenty of them around here. Over the whole
valley there are deserted huts; everything is just the same as it
was when the last people died in the terrible plague many years
Ingeborg. Here I like it very much! Over there, too, there is
just such an old hut; the water is near by, and the forest must
surely be alive with game. You can fish and hunt; aye, we shall
live a wonderful life!
Hemming. Yea, forsooth, a wonderful life! I shall fish and hunt
the while you gather berries and keep the house in order.
Ingeborg. Do I? No, that you must take care of!
Hemming. Yes, yes, as you please. O, a delightful life we shall
[Stops and adds somewhat dejectedly.]
Hemming. But when I stop to think a bit; — I have neither bow nor
Ingeborg. [Likewise with an expression of despondency.] And it
occurs to me there are no servants here who can help me.
Hemming. That shall I willingly do!
Ingeborg. No, thanks. — And all my good clothes — I didn’t bring
anything along except my bridal gown which I am wearing.
Hemming. That was thoughtless of you!
Ingeborg. True enough, Hemming! And for that reason you shall
steal down to Guldvik some night and bring me clothes and other
things as much as I have need of.
Hemming. And be hanged as a thief!
Ingeborg. No, you shall be careful and cautious — that I warn
you. But when finally the long winter comes? There are no
people up here — music and dancing we shall never have — Hemming!
Shall we stay here or —
Hemming. Well, where else is there we can go?
Ingeborg. [Impatiently.] Yes, but human beings cannot live
Hemming. Why, surely, they can!
Ingeborg. Well, you see yourself they are all of them dead!
Hemming! I think it best I go home to my father.
Hemming. But what will become of me?
Ingeborg. You shall go to war!
Hemming. To war! And be killed!
Ingeborg. Not at all! You shall perform some illustrious deed,
and then will you be made a knight, and then will my father no
longer be opposed to you.
Hemming. Yes, but what if they kill me in the meantime?
Ingeborg. Well, we’ll have plenty of time to think about that.
Today and tomorrow we shall have to remain here, I suppose; so
long will the guests sit in the festive house and celebrate — if
they look for us, it will probably be about in the village; up
here we can be safe and —
[She stops and listens.]
Chorus. [Far away off the stage to the right.]
Away — away to find
Alfhild, the false, unkind;
For all our woe and strife
She must pay with her life!
Hemming. Ingeborg! Ingeborg! They are after us!
Ingeborg. Where shall we find refuge?
Hemming. Well, how can I know —
Ingeborg. Go into the hut; lock the door so that it can be
bolted from within.
Hemming. Yes, but —
Ingeborg. Do as I say! I shall go up on the hill the meanwhile
and see if they are far away.
[She goes out to the right.]
Hemming. Yes, yes! Alas, if only they don’t get us!
[He goes into the house.]
[OLAF comes from the forest to the left. Immediately afterwards INGEBORG from the right.]
Olaf. [Looks about and calls softly.] Alfhild! Alfhild! She
is nowhere to be seen! Like a bird she disappeared from my view
into the wood and I—
Ingeborg. They are right close and —
Ingeborg. Olaf Liljekrans!
Hemming. [Sticks his head out of the door and spies OLAF.]
Lord Olaf! So! Now is it surely all up with me!
Ingeborg. [Aside.] He must have ridden in advance of the rest.
Olaf. [Aside.] She must have come up here with her father to
look for me.
Ingeborg. [Aside.] But I will not go with him!
Olaf. [Aside.] I will not stir from here!
Ingeborg. [Aloud, as she draws nearer.] Olaf Liljekrans! Now
you have me; but you will do ill if you try to compel me.
Olaf. That is furthest from my mind!
Ingeborg. Why then come you here in company with my kinsmen?
Olaf. Do I? On the contrary, it is you who —
Ingeborg. That invention won’t fool me; only a moment ago I saw
the whole crowd —
Olaf. Who? Who?
Ingeborg. My father and our relatives!
Olaf. Up here?
Ingeborg. Why, yes, right close at hand!
Olaf. Ah, then is my mother with them.
Ingeborg. Of course, she is with them. But how can that
Olaf. You see — it is I they seek!
Ingeborg. No, it is I!
Olaf. [Astonished.] You!
Ingeborg. [Begins to grasp the connection.] Or — wait a
moment — Ha, ha, ha! What an idea! Come, shall we two be honest
with each other?
Olaf. Yes, that is exactly what I had in mind!
Ingeborg. Well, then, tell me, at what hour came you up here?
Olaf. During the night!
Ingeborg. I, too!
Ingeborg. Yes, yes! And you went away without any one’s knowing
Ingeborg. I, too!
Olaf. But tell me —
Ingeborg. Hush, we have only a moment or two! And you fled up
here because you had but little desire to go to the altar with
Olaf. Aye, how can you think —
Ingeborg. Yes, that I can easily think. Answer me now; we were
to speak honestly.
Olaf. Well, then, it was therefore that I—
Ingeborg. Well and good, I did likewise!
Olaf. You, Ingeborg!
Ingeborg. And now you would rather not have any one come upon
Olaf. Well, it can’t be denied!
Ingeborg. I, too! Aha — ’tis a jolly coincidence; I fled from
you, and you from me! We both fled up here, and now just as our
relatives are after us we meet again! Listen, Olaf Liljekrans!
Say we promise not to betray one another!
Olaf. I promise.
Ingeborg. But now we must part!
Olaf. I understand!
Ingeborg. For, if they found us together, then —
Olaf. Yes, then it would be still more difficult for you to be
rid of me!
Ingeborg. Farewell! If ever I come to have a wedding you shall
be my bride’s man.
Olaf. And if anything like that should happen to me, you will, I
am sure, accommodate me in the same way.
Ingeborg. Of course! Farewell! Farewell! And do not think
unkindly of me.
Olaf. Indeed not; I shall give you my hand wherever we meet!
Ingeborg. I, too! Wherever we meet — only not at the altar.
[She goes into the house. OLAF goes into the forest on the right
at the back.]
[LADY KIRSTEN, ARNE of Guldvik, WEDDING GUESTS, PEASANTS and SERVANTS from the right.]
Lady kirsten. See, here will we begin the hunt. Our people must
spread about and search all around the tarn; — she shall come
forth and then — woe upon her! no mercy or pity is there in my
Arne. What will you do then?
Lady kirsten. Hold judgment upon her — right on the spot where
she is found! All the damage she has done on my dominions I have
power and authority to punish in accordance with reason and
Arne. Yes, but what good is that? What is lost can not thereby
be won back again.
Lady kirsten. No, but I shall get revenge, and that is no little
gain. Revenge — revenge I must have, if I am to bear and live
down my loss and all the shame she has brought upon me. The
storm last night ruined the whole of my year’s crop; not a single
uninjured straw is left in my fields; and in here, where she
herself has said she has her home, here everything thrives and
blossoms more luxuriantly than I have ever seen! Is not that the
operation of secret arts? Olaf she has snared so securely in her
devilish net that he fled out of the village in the wildest storm
to follow her. My house she burned clear to the ground; all the
openings and doors she barred on the outside; — it was a miracle
of God that the servants brought their timely help!
Arne. Alas, alas; I am afraid if has cost two lives that I
thought much of — Ingeborg and my man Hemming!
Lady kirsten. Come, come, Lord Arne! You must not completely
despair of them yet. Ingeborg may have escaped after all; the
rest of us came out of it untouched in spite of the cunning of
the cursed witch; — Ingeborg has been bewildered with fright and
has sought refuge somewhere.
Arne. Yes, yes, that may be the case with Ingeborg; but Hemming
is past all hope — of that I am sure!
Lady kirsten. How so?
Arne. O, he had become such a sly and contriving devil of late!
He has let himself be shut in and burnt merely to get revenge
over me; he knows I can’t get along for a single day without him.
O, I know him!
Lady kirsten. Well, however it is, Alfhild we must capture; she
shall be tried, condemned, and punished; I have misdeeds a plenty
to charge her with.
Arne. And I can mention a few in case it is necessary; she has
stolen my dapple-gray horse from the stable; this morning it was
gone with saddle and bridle.
Lady kirsten. [Aside.] Ingeborg and Hemming gone, and his horse
likewise; were I in his place I should know what to think.
Lady kirsten. [Aloud.] Now let us divide and go about in small
groups; he who first gets his eye on Alfhild shall blow the
trumpet or horn; let the rest listen and follow the sound till we
are assembled again.
[They go out at different sides.]
Arne. [Who alone has remained.] And I, who am not acquainted
here — how am I to find my way.
Arne. [Calls.] Hemming! Hemming!
Arne. I forgot — he is —
Arne. [Shaking his head.] Hm! It was a shameful trick he
[He goes out to the right.]
[ALFHILD appears near the tarn to the left; she carries a little bundle.]
Alfhild. I have wailed, I have wept, till my heart is sore;
I am weary and tired, I can weep no more!
[Sinks down on a stone in the foreground.]
Alfhild. First to my father farewell I shall say!
Then into the mountains I make my way!
Down here I see Olaf wherever I go;
I must up in the heights to steel my mind!
I must deaden my grief, forget what I know,
And leave all the memories dear behind!
Alfhild. The life in my dream had so rosy a hue!
’Tis nothing but fiction, nothing is true —
’Tis nothing but nonsense and shifting lies;
Naught can be seized and held in the hand.
Naught must be looked at with open eyes,
Nothing stands proof when we understand!
[The sound of trumpets is heard from the wood.]
Alfhild. My mother’s heirlooms I take with me;
I shall bury them deep in the ground!
I shall bury them deep ‘neath the tall birch tree,
Over yonder where Olaf I found!
[She opens her bundle and takes out a bridal crown and other
Alfhild. This crown did my mother once wear on her head;
She too by the world then was tricked and misled,
She too then in love and its power believed.
Was she too so rudely deceived?
Was it only in jest that my father did sing
The pleasures that gladden the human breast?
Ah, then he should never have said anything;
His songs have robbed me of earthly rest;
His songs built a home for the ecstasies
Of life in my heart — now in ruin it lies!
[The trumpets are heard again.]
Alfhild. Silver indeed is a metal of worth,
’Twill never crumble like autumn hay.
Were it hid for a thousand years in the earth,
It would still glitter bright, it would never decay!
The pleasures of life are like autumn hay,
And sorrow like silver that glitters alway!
[Ties the ornaments together in the bundle.]
Alfhild. A magic treasure I often recall,
From which dropped nine glorious pearls every night;
But no matter how many the pearls it let fall,
The treasure remained just as big and as bright!
Alfhild. A treasure of magic, this sorrow of mine,
And from it shall drip by night and by day,
Not nine — but ten thousand pearls that shine —
Yet the treasure shall never decay! —
Yes, the world has made me so wise — so wise!
Once I followed the clouds in their flight,
Flew dreaming with them on their path in the skies,
And called them the swans of the light!
I thought that the trees spread their branches so wide,
That I might walk in the shade;
I thought there was life in the mountain side.
A sorry mistake I have made.
Now I know better; — for man alone
Can revel in joy, can suffer despair.
In tree and in flower, friend there is none —
My sorrow alone I must bear.
Alfhild. Away then! Up midst the ice and the snow —
The grave is the only shelter below!
[She starts to leave.]
[ALFHILD, LADY KIRSTEN, ARNE, WEDDING GUESTS, PEASANTS and SERVANTS from various sides. Later OLAF LILJEKRANS.]
Lady kirsten. There she is! Stand still, Alfhild! Do not try
to escape — else we shall shoot you.
Alfhild. What do you want of me?
Lady kirsten. That you shall learn soon enough.
Lady kirsten. [Points to her bundle.] What is this you are
Alfhild. My mother’s treasures!
Lady kirsten. Give it here! See, see! A crown of silver!
Indeed, Alfhild! If you are your mother’s only daughter I am
very much afraid the bridal crown will nevermore be needed in her
Lady kirsten. [To the Servants.] Bind her! She stands there
and pretends to be sad; no one can know what she is scheming.
[ALFHILD is bound.]
Lady kirsten. [Aloud and with suppressed passion.] The court is
ready. As you all know, I have a legal and prescriptive right to
protect my dominions, to pass judgment in accordance with the law
of the realm on every one who does me harm on my own lands. This
is what you, Alfhild, have presumed to do, and it is therefore
that you now stand here accused before your judge. Defend
yourself if you can, but do not forget it is a matter of life and
Arne. But listen, Lady Kirsten!
Lady kirsten. Excuse me, Lord Arne! I am within my rights here,
and I intend to insist on them.
Lady kirsten. [To ALFHILD.] Come forward and answer me!
Alfhild. Do you but question me — I shall answer!
Lady kirsten. Many and grievous are the charges that are
directed against you. First and foremost I charge you here with
having beguiled my son, Olaf Liljekrans, with your unholy arts,
so that he turned heart and soul away from his betrothed to whom
he was pledged — so that he, sick in heart, never at any time
found peace in his home, but came up here to this unknown valley
where you have had your home. All this could not have happened
in any ordinary way; you are therefore accused of
witchcraft — defend yourself if you can.
Alfhild. I have little to say in answer to this. Witchcraft you
call that strange power that drew Olaf up here. Perhaps you are
right; but this witchcraft was not of evil; — every hour that Olaf
has been here God must surely have witnessed! Each thought that
I have had of Olaf the angels of God must have known! And they
had no occasion to blush.
Lady kirsten. Enough, enough! You would add blasphemy to your
transgression! Woe upon you, Alfhild! Your every word only adds
weight to the scales. Yet, that is your affair!
Lady kirsten. [To the rest.] I crave you all as witnesses to
[Turns to ALFHILD.]
Lady kirsten. I charge you next with having again, this very
night, with the aid of these same secret powers, met Olaf up
here, and furthermore that you keep him concealed in here!
Alfhild. There you are right! Secretly is he hidden here!
Lady kirsten. You admit it?
Alfhild. Yes, but however powerful you are, you will never be
able to set him free. Perhaps it would be best for me if you
were able; but neither you nor the whole wide world have the
power to set him free!
Lady kirsten. [In a violent outburst.] Now death will certainly
be your punishment! Out with it — where have you got him?
Alfhild. [Presses her hands to her bosom.] In here — in my
heart! If you can tear him out from it you can practice
witchcraft better than I!
Lady kirsten. That answer is nothing. Out with it — where is
Alfhild. I have answered!
Lady kirsten. [With repressed irritation.] Good!
Arne. [To the spectators.] Were Hemming alive he would have
been able to get the truth out of her; he had become so crafty of
Lady kirsten. Now the third charge against you: last night you
set fire to my house and burned it clear to the ground. Perhaps
human life has been lost — that we not know as yet — but whether
or no, it will neither harm nor help your cause; for your
intention to burn all of us is as clear as day. Do you deny my
charge that you set fire to my home last night?
Alfhild. I do not deny it; I have destroyed your house!
Lady kirsten. And how will you extenuate your action?
Lady kirsten. [With bitter mockery.] You shall not be able to
say that you acted over hastily. Good opportunity you had, so
far as I can remember, to stop and consider; you stood outside
there, no one came near you, no one prevented you from
deliberating as calmly as you could. Nor shall you say that the
merriment of the festive occasion went to your head, nor that the
wine distracted you; for you were not on the inside at all; you
stood on the outside, and it was cool enough there — the biting
wind should have made you sober.
Alfhild. Yes, I destroyed your house last night; but you and
Olaf and all the rest of you out there have done me a greater
wrong. The world was to me a festive hall which belonged to the
Great Father. The blue heaven was its roof, the stars were the
lamps that shone from its ceiling. I wandered happy and rich in
all this; but you, you threw a brand right in the midst of this
golden splendor; now is everything withered and dead!
Lady kirsten. Such talk will profit you little! Still once more
I ask, where is Olaf Liljekrans, my son?
Alfhild. I have answered!
Lady kirsten. Then you have also passed your own sentence, and I
shall confirm it.
[OLAF appears on the rocky cliff among the trees, unnoticed by
Olaf. [Aside.] Alfhild! God help me! What is that?
Lady kirsten. You have, in accordance with the law of the land,
incurred the penalty of death as guilty of witchcraft and arson.
This sentence is herewith pronounced upon you, and forthwith
right here on the spot it shall be executed.
Arne. But listen, Lady Kirsten!
Lady kirsten. Judgment is pronounced! Alfhild shall die!
Alfhild. Do as you please; little shall I be of hindrance to
you. When Olaf denied his love, then ceased my life — I live no
Lady kirsten. Take her up on the rocky ledge over there.
[Two Servants take ALFHILD up.]
Lady kirsten. For the last time, Alfhild! Give me back my son!
Alfhild. I will answer no more!
Lady kirsten. Just as you please!
Lady kirsten. [To the Servants.] Cast her down! No, wait! I
have an idea!
Lady kirsten. [To ALFHILD.] As you stand there, I remember you
again as you yesterday came forward with the golden crown and
thought you were worthy to be Olaf Liljekrans’ bride. Now we
soon shall see how much you are worth; there are present here
peasants and servants and many humble men; — perhaps your life can
still be saved! Yes, Alfhild! You stare at me, but so it is; I
will be merciful to you!
Lady kirsten. [Turns to the rest.]
You all know the old custom, that when a woman is sentenced to death for a capital offence, as she is, her life will be saved and she will be free if an irreproachable man comes forth and upholds her innocence and declares himself ready and willing to marry her. That custom you know?
All. Yes, yes!
Alfhild. [Bursting into tears.] O, to be mocked — mocked so
terribly in my last hour!
Lady kirsten. Well then, Alfhild! This custom you shall have
the benefit of. If the most humble man in my company comes forth
and declares himself willing to marry you, then are you free.
Lady kirsten. [Looks about.] Is there no one who applies?
[All are silent.]
Lady kirsten. Give her the silver crown; that shall go in the
bargain; perhaps, Alfhild, you will then rise in value!
[The crown is placed on ALFHILD’s head.]
Lady kirsten. For the second time I ask — is any one willing to
[She looks about. All are silent.]
Lady kirsten. Now for it; I am afraid your moments are numbered.
Hear me well, you servants up there! Should no one answer my
third call, then do you watch for a sign from me and cast her
into the lake! Use now your arts, Alfhild! See if you can
conjure yourself free from death.
Lady kirsten. [With a loud voice.] For the last time! There
stands the witch and incendiary! Who will save and marry her?
[She looks about. All are silent. — LADY KIRSTEN raises her hand
quickly as a signal, the Servants seize ALFHILD; in the same
moment OLAF rushes out on the ledge in full wedding garb.]
Olaf. I will save and marry her!
[He thrusts the SERVANTS aside and unbinds her. ALFHILD sinks
with a cry on his bosom; he puts his left arm around her and
raises his right arm threateningly in the air.]
All. [Stand as if turned to stone.] Olaf Liljekrans!
Lady kirsten. Olaf Liljekrans, my son! What have you done?
Disgraced yourself for all time!
Olaf. No, I blot out the shame and disgrace which I brought on
myself by my treatment of her! My sin I shall expiate and make
myself happy the while!
Olaf. [Brings ALFHILD forward.] Yes, before all of you I
solemnly proclaim this young woman my bride! She is innocent of
all that has been charged against her; I only have transgressed.
[Kneels before her.]
Olaf. And at your feet I beg you to forget and forgive —
Alfhild. [Raises him.] Ah, Olaf! You have given me back all
the glory of the world!
Lady kirsten. You will marry her! Well and good; then am I no
longer a mother to you!
Olaf. You will cause me great sorrow, although it is now long
since that you were a real mother to me. You used me merely to
build aloft your own pride, and I was weak and acquiesced. But
now have I won power and will; now I stand firmly on my own feet
and lay the foundation of my own happiness!
Lady kirsten. But do you stop to consider —
Olaf. Nothing will I now consider — I know what I want. Now
first I understand my strange dream. It was prophesied of me
that I was to find the fairest of flowers — that I was to tear it
asunder and strew it to all the winds. O, thus it has happened!
A woman’s heart is the fairest flower in the world; all its rich
and golden leaves I have torn asunder and scattered to the winds.
But be of good cheer, my Alfhild! Many a seed has gone too, and
sorrow has ripened it, and from it shall grow a rich life for us
here in the valley; for here shall we live and be happy!
Alfhild. O, now I am happy as in the first hour we met.
Lady kirsten. [Aside.] Ingeborg is gone; this rich valley
belongs to Alfhild — no one else has a claim to it —
Lady kirsten. [Aloud.] Well, Olaf! I shall not stand in the
way of your happiness. If you think you will find it in this
way, then — well, then you have my consent!
Olaf. Thanks, mother, thanks! Now I lack nothing more!
Alfhild. [To LADY KIRSTEN.] And me you forgive all my sin?
Lady kirsten. Yes, yes! Perhaps I too was wrong — let us not
say any more of that!
Arne. But I, then? And my daughter, whom Olaf had pledged — Yet,
it is true, perhaps she is no longer alive!
Olaf. Of course she’s alive!
Arne. She lives! Where is she? Where?
Olaf. That I can not say; but I may say that we both in all
friendliness have broken our pledge.
Lady kirsten. You see, Lord Arne! that I—
Arne. Well, my daughter shall not be forced upon any one.
Alfhild was fated to marry a knight; the same may happen to
Arne. [With dignity.] Noble lords and honorable men, hear me!
It has come to my ear that many of you hold me to be little
skilled in courtly manners and customs. I will show you now you
are completely mistaken. In the old chronicles it is frequently
told that when a noble king loses his daughter he promises her
hand and half his kingdom to him who may find her; he who finds
Ingeborg shall receive her hand in marriage and in addition half
of all that I own and possess. Are you with me on that?
The young men. Yes, yes!
[The Preceding. INGEBORG comes hurriedly out of the hut and pulls HEMMING behind her.]
Ingeborg. Here I am! Hemming has found me!
All. [ASTONISHED] Ingeborg and Hemming! Up here!
Arne. [Irritated.] Ah, then shall —
Ingeborg. [Throws herself about his neck.] O father, father!
It will not avail you; you have given your word!
Arne. But that did not apply to him! Now I see it all right; he
has taken you away himself.
Ingeborg. No, to the contrary, father! It was I who took him
Arne. [Frightened.] Will you be silent with such words! Are
you out of your head?
Ingeborg. [Softly.] Then say “yes” right here on the spot!
Otherwise I shall proclaim to all people that it was I who —
Arne. Hush, hush! I am saying “yes”!
[Steps between them and looks sternly at HEMMING.]
Arne. It was you then who stole my dapple-gray horse with saddle
Hemming. Alas, Lord Arne! —
Arne. O Hemming! Hemming! You are a —
[Stops to consider.]
Arne. Well, you are my daughter’s betrothed; let it all be
Hemming and ingeborg. O, thanks, thanks!
[The Preceding. THORGJERD with a harp in his hand has during the foregoing mingled with the people.]
Thorgjerd. Aye, see, see! A multitude of people in the valley
The peasants. Thorgjerd, the fiddler!
Alfhild. [Throws herself in his arms.] My father!
All. Her father!
Olaf. Yes, yes, old man! There are people and merriment in here
today, and hereafter it shall always be thus. It is your
daughter’s wedding we are celebrating; for love has she chosen
her betrothed, of love have you sung for her — you will not stand
in our way!
Thorgjerd. May all good spirits guard you well!
Alfhild. And you will remain with us!
Thorgjerd. No, no, Alfhild!
A minstrel has never a place to rest,
His soul fares afar, he forever must roam!
For he who has music deep down in his breast,
Is never in mountains or lowlands at home;
In the meadows green, in the sheltering bower,
He must touch the strings and sing every hour,
He must watch for the life that lives in the shower,
Beneath the wild fjord, in the rushing stream,
Must watch for the life that beats in the soul,
And clothe in music what people but dream,
And give voice to its sorrow and dole!
Olaf. But sometime you will surely visit us here!
Now shall ‘mid the birches a hall be erected;
Here, my Alfhild! shall you be protected.
I and my love will always be near,
No more shall your eye be dimmed with a tear!
Alfhild. Yes, now I see — life is precious and kind!
Rich as the fairest dream of the mind!
So dreary and black is never our sorrow —
’Tis followed sometime by a bright sunny morrow!
Alfhild. [Kneels.] O angels of God! you have led me aright,
Again you have granted me solace and bliss!
You guided my wandering past the abyss,
You steadied my foot that was weak and slight!
O, if with my mind I cannot understand —
With my heart I’ll believe to the last!
Yes, heavenly powers! You still watch o’er the land!
Clear is the sun when the dark storm is passed; —
From death and destruction my love did you save:
So now then let happen what may!
For now I am cheerful, now am I brave,
Ready for life and its motley affray!
Alfhild. [With a glance at OLAF.] And when we at length —
[She pauses and stretches her arms above her head.]
Alfhild. by the angels of love
Are borne to our home in the heavens above!
[The rest have formed a group around her; the curtain falls.]
This web edition published by:
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University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56